How vaccine companies engage in R&D of preventive vaccines for 69 priority diseases

Research & Development

GSK and Johnson & Johnson lead, with strong yet differing approaches. GSK has the largest pipeline, while Johnson & Johnson makes the largest R&D investments as a proportion of vaccine revenue. Both companies aim to address high-need vaccine gaps, and both have access plans in place for over half their late-stage vaccine candidates.

Context

The potential public health benefits of developing new effective vaccines are immense. Further benefits can be achieved by adapting existing vaccines to make them more suitable for resource-limited settings. Yet vaccine R&D involves high costs, technical complexity and high risk of failure, while there are limited incentives to stimulate engagement. Without heavy investments, by companies and donors, few vaccines will make it to market. When companies do develop vaccines, it is important they consider the future accessibility of the product.

What the Index measures

In this chapter, the Access to Vaccines Index analyses the R&D projects for preventive vaccines of eight companies: Daiichi Sankyo, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc., Pfizer, Sanofi, Serum Institute of India and Takeda.

The Index examines the following areas:

  1. R&D investments: companies’ investments in vaccine R&D for the 69 diseases and pathogens in scope, compared to global vaccine revenues.
  2. Vaccine pipelines: where companies are focusing vaccine R&D.
  3. Types of vaccine R&D: whether companies are developing new vaccines, adapting existing ones, and/or developing technologies for vaccine packaging and delivery.
  4. Access provisions: actions companies take during vaccine R&D to ensure rapid uptake of approved vaccines by populations in need.

Conclusion

The eight companies evaluated by the Access to Vaccines Index have 89 projects in the pipeline for 35 of the 69 diseases in scope. Almost one third of projects target diseases deemed high priority by WHO for vaccine R&D. Companies focus evenly on developing new vaccines and adapting existing ones: both types of vaccine R&D are critical to facilitate widespread immunisation. While just over half of late-stage projects have one or more access provision in place, companies do not provide evidence of access provisions for the remainder of these projects. These findings indicate that, while companies are responding to the need for vaccines, substantial improvements can be gained. Sustained incentives to drive R&D are required to make this a reality. Companies must continue to invest sustainably in vaccine R&D for diseases prioritised by external stakeholders. This not only includes considering how the vaccine’s characteristics can be best designed to facilitate access, but also making clear plans to ensure the rapid uptake of successful innovations in low- and middle-income countries.